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count me in!
I don't know about those mixtape websites you mentioned, but if they're easy to use, I'll pitch in.
I guess this would be an appropriate forum to announce I've been working on several different AM mixes. Right now I'm working on a series of mixes which include All AM top 3000 songs that are not on an album in the top 3000.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about.
Last time, I used the opportunity to pour my heart out through my choice of songs. I suppose that is the true spirit of a mixtape, and I was quite pleased with how it turned out. I wanted this one not to be so heavy. In a sense, all mixtapes are personal and revealing, and this one is as well, but if I could liken it to anything, the first mix was akin to me writing an autobiography, while this one is more like me sharing my favorite story. I also wanted to focus on a specific time period, as 1978-1983 is my favorite era for music. These ten tracks actually only span the years 1979-1982, so it’s pretty unified. Not all of them are purely disco, nor are all of them obvious horror songs, but I think they all capture that wonderful weirdness that I love so much.
Here’s a bit of background for my mix. Over the past ten years, I’ve become somewhat of a horror movie aficionado. Nothing sets my mind going like a good future dystopia. Nonetheless, I am also often entertained by horror of a… cheaper variety! I spent countless hours with my mom and brother watching laughably bad horror films, to the point where my mom never fails to send me a horror film for my birthday and Christmas- the cheaper, the better! We’re talking D-grade, people! In any case, I bought a box set around 6 years ago with about 80 horror movies for about 40 bucks. We went through just about all of them, laughing our way (and genuinely hiding our way sometimes) through hours upon hours of fun. I took notice of a particular scene from the movie House on the Edge of the Park in which the actors all get down to a campy disco number, and this scene has been re-enacted in our living room countless times! It’s a wonderful mix of bizarre, camp, creepy and fun, and this is the spirit of my mix. Here is the scene in all of its glory, along with my very cheap parody using xtranormal. And who can forget Jamie Lee Curtis showing off her incandescent dancing chops in Prom Night? If these movies taught me anything, it is that if I should come to some grisly demise, someone better have the decency to send me out with a good kick drum and a fat bass line.
Now for a little blurb about the artwork. I’m not visually artistic, at all. However, in this case, that is to my advantage, as the only fitting image for such a mix is one that combines cheapness with the creepiness. So I thought, “What could be cheaper than using Microsoft Paint?” I kept having this image of a neon train in pitch blackness pursuing a woman, so I just went with it. I even used Paint’s circles and lines to make my own font for the cover. Given my lack of artistic skill but determination to mathematically create an appropriate image, I think this artwork suits my personality and the era of this mix pretty well.
And, on to the music!
1. Eurythmics- “Step on the Beast” (1982)
Well I’m half way down in, and I can’t get up!
My love for Eurythmics is no secret here. I truly think they represent the pinnacle of synth pop, as Dave and Annie were able to extract such great textures from their synthesizers, using them to enhance their musicality rather than hide from a lack of proper training. Moreover, they were never afraid to take their music to the edge of sanity, especially on their B-sides. Originally culled from the single “The Walk”, “Step on the Beast” is definitely keen for stepping, with a punchy beat accented by a beastly percussive roar on the 3 of each measure. And what does Miss Lennox do? Revel in it, that’s what! Her voice reaches for the upper registers playfully as some eerie synths paint the bizarre tension. At last a horn segment (somewhat of a precursor to Touch in that respect) does battle with the chirping synths to close the track. Instantly memorable and highly sought after, this B-side was one of the few left missing from the remasters. A subsequent version was released as the title song of an incredibly obscure cassette issued as a bonus with the “Right By Your Side” 12-inch. One of the comments in that link says it all, really: “I’d kill a small child to own this.” $125 later, I am glad I didn’t have to go that route!
2. Gary Numan- “Metal” (1979)
I could crawl around the floor just like I’m real… like you.
Mr. Numan is a kindred spirit when it comes to horror. Tubeway Army’s entire Replicas album is a wonderful concept album inspired by Joseph Dick’s classic novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which spawned the movie Blade Runner. The subsequent album from which this track comes (The Pleasure Principle) saw Numan abandon all organic instruments, and the result was a harrowingly beautiful and alien landscape. “Metal” sees Numan employ an android persona, contemplating what life would be like as a human, with allusions to implanted patriotism and other forms of social programming to great effect. Moreover, that’s a pretty wicked synth bass he lays down here. Yessir! Future dystopia for the ears.
3. Kano- “It’s a War” (1980)
It’s a war for nothing, they’re fighting.
I have only recently stumbled upon Kano in a rabid exploration of Italo Disco music, and I’m eating it up! Taking elements of disco, electronic music, and synth funk, this song takes a lot of my favorite element and tosses them into a fiery cauldron. Chiming in about senseless war, their solution to such evil worldly issues is to turn up the beat, an ethos with which Prince is quite comfortable.
4. Berlin- “The Metro” (1982)
My four walls follow me through my past.
The song that likely inspired the cover art, “The Metro” is another beacon of synth pop and the defining single of Berlin. Full of the nervous tension that made the early 80s such a taut and trailblazing time, Terri Nunn’s solitude and paranoia are elevated with each leg of the pursuit. The music video bursts with imagery perfect for this kind of mix, as well. Being scared never sounded so fun!
5. The Associates- “The Affectionate Punch” (1980)
The affectionate punch draws blood… even more blood!
I had to throw a little post-punk in for good measure as well, but the relentless tempo and that chugging riff give it a disco pass. This song elucidates an entirely different kind of horror- the horror of flirtation! Billy Mackenzie delivers such a convincing vocal of the feeling of sheer horror that can come with the realization of feelings that are escalating far too quickly. I think that framing the flirtation in the form of an affectionate punch is rather clever and effective, and the innuendo of the notion that it draws blood (even more blood) is downright decadent. Moreover, this song serves as a prime example of what I love about post-punk- a skeletal, tight template filled in with bursts of energy and experimentation. More, please!
6. Kim Wilde- “Water on Glass” (1981)
Pray it will pass.
When I moved to our house 2 years ago, a Kim Wilde compilation was my surprising soundtrack. I bought it on a whim hoping there were songs I might like half as much as “Kids in America”, and was I ever in for a treat! Her first three albums are all wonderful, wonderful pop albums with interesting lyrics and unexpected edge. Kim Wilde has never been the best singer, but she always injects a lot of character. This track comes from the first album, in which Kim and her songwriting family were clearly influenced by Blondie. In fact, this track sounds like a lost gem from Eat to the Beat as a little slice of new wave perfection! The subject of the lyrics is actually a rare group of people who suffer from tinnitus permanently, the alien sound in their ears never ceasing. With its angular guitars, staircase-climbing bass and some great background vocals, this song surely offers a bit of a reprieve.
7. OMD- “Enola Gay” (1980)
Aha this kiss you give, it’s never ever gonna fade away.
Shifting gears a bit from personal horror to political horror, this song is rather surprising. While on the surface, the lyrics sound like a depiction of the end of a relationship, they actually chronicle the fateful plane that would drop the bomb (“Little Boy” on Hiroshima. The song itself bursts with appropriate energy, with no fewer than three incredible synth hooks riding atop an absolutely rocking bass line. It is songs like these that defeat the sadly widely-perceived notion that the 80s didn’t have much to offer in the way of substance. OMD may not have stood barefoot with acoustic guitars in tow strumming away in sympathy to the horrors of the world, but I would argue that the synthetic palette they use here adds an other-worldly dimension that suits the sheer immensity of World War II.
8. The Human League- “Seconds” (1981)
The shot that was heard around the world.
Another song depicting political horror, The Human League offers a respectfully mournful homage to John Kennedy. The synthesizers sound like a slow, brass procession, giving the song a sort of regal elegance suitable for a presidential motorcade. Showing that “Being Boiled” was not just a one-off statement, Phil Oakey reins in the theatrics for a simpler, more subtle tone of dejection. Beginning with the perspective of Lee Harvey Oswald (or whoever it was who pulled the trigger) hiding cowardly from the sun in search of fame, he then portrays the hopefulness associated with Kennedy’s presidency before repeatedly noting in astonishment the fact that it took mere seconds to eradicate that hope. The Human League are good at so many things, but rarely are they this poignant.
9. Bagarre- “For Your Pleasure” (1982)
Clean your ears and listen well… From today I’ll make you live in Hell!
This is yet another and by far my favorite discovery from my research of Italo Disco. Very little seems to be known about this band, but this song at turns showcases a sort of French whimsy, synth pop glory, quirky funk vamps and post punk experimentation, all brilliantly. It starts off with the singer relating an episode in the recording studio, setting the stage for her to unintentionally fall for her controlling collaborator. Somehow, though, she flips the script and this “ever so pretty and ever so intelligent” girl refuses to be taken advantage of by these wolves. The conclusion? “She eats wolf chops all day, and laughs”, of course! This song perhaps typifies the spirit of this mix better than any other- all over the place, taking unexpected and thrilling turns and effortlessly entertaining.
10. Siouxsie and the Banshees- “Israel” (1980)
Even though we’re all alone, we are never on our own when we’re singing, singing.
Probably the best song of the bunch, this song set my world upside down in 2008, assuring that Siouxsie and the Banshees would be my most rewarding musical discovery of the past 5 years. Wonderfully alien with an absurd bass line that inspired me to finally learn that instrument and jingle bells of all things, “Israel” is arguably the strangest “Christmas” song ever made. It slinks along with surreptitious stealth and a great kick while Siouxsie conjures images of displaced Jews and centuries of rich tradition and stifling oppression. Slowly building the tension, it then goes into a long sequence of Middle Eastern chanting before returning guns ablaze in heavy chorus about the power of song to unite a group of people. Defying any attempt to classify it, “Israel” offered further proof that Siouxsie and the Banshees had transformed from a cool punk band to a group of trailblazing musicians limitless in their scope. Having recruited John McGeoch and Budgie, the Banshees had all of the pieces in place to cover infinite musical ground over the space of three wonderful albums that form a sort of trilogy that would see the band continue to evolve, tackling many styles and incorporating a diverse range of instruments with remarkable ability. Few songs have inspired me to such lengths, and “Israel” stands proudly among the band’s canon as one of many unforgettable anthems.
And there it is! I hope you all enjoy this mix. I had a blast putting it together, and I look forward to some discussion about these long-forgotten or previously unknown gems. Thank you for listening!
More art for the sake of completeness:
I suppose it would have been nice to include the link to the mix itself.
What's a bitch gotta do to get some input around here?
Seconds is a hopelessly underrated song.
Thanks, Moonbeam. I just gave the mix a listen. 80's electropop is a big hole for me, so it was very nice to listen to these tracks. I have fond memories of the video for Metro popping up on MTV, and I enjoyed the Bagarre and Gary Numan tracks
I would like to do this sometime...but not right now. I just don't have the time. Maybe we could have somebody make one for the beginning of each month?
Wow, Moonbeam, that was great. Simultaneously terrific and terrifying!!
Some highlights: the horn solo on the Eurythmics’ song, the synth-sequence on Metro’s, the rhythm box on OMD’s, the ominous synth sounds on Human League’s and, of course, the gorgeous “Israel”. I remember of me seeing this performance on TV on the early 80s (with Robert Smith on guitar) and jumping in ecstasy alone in my house.